Has Mercedes-Benz done enough with the refreshed GLC for it to remain competitive in a segment bustling with first-rate opposition? We test the GLC220d...
Our last experience with the midsize SUV offering from Mercedes-Benz had many CAR team members scratching their heads. In our May 2019 SUV Shootout, it left a lot to be desired, failing to impress us like the other premium SUVs had managed to over the three-day road trip. Placing last, we noted the GLC could do with a host of revisions to remain competitive in a class filled with newer, more polished alternatives. Well, Mercedes-Benz has done just that, gifting the GLC an extensive facelift. Subtle updates modernise the exterior; the already tasteful design has been freshened up with a new grille, headlamps and bumper. The rear has benefitted from a tweaked taillamp design. The test unit attracted positive attention not only from testers, but from many bystanders. Appearance-enhancing optional extras such as an AMG Line Exterior package (R40 000) and AMG 5-twin-spoke alloys (R20 200) add to the aesthetic appeal, although the aluminium-look running boards (R8 300) weren’t to everyone’s taste.
Getting in and out of the roomy interior is easy. Large door openings make light work of loading a child seat onto the 60:40-split folding rear bench. Inside, you’re greeted by a familiarly decorative cockpit, which has received a raft of improvements. There is a distinct step up in perceived build quality with the cabin feeling more substantial than it did before. While it remains a pleasant place to sit in, the facia of the GLC is looking a touch dated, especially when compared with newer Mercedes-Benz models. A slab of black open-pore ash-wood trim cascading down the dashboard is a lovely touch at R7 000 and pairs well with the metallised switches and detailing. The optional all-digital instrumentation is configurable and offers a clear and crisp display. Together with the new MBUX infotainment system, both can be controlled via touchpads on the steering wheel.
From behind the wheel, there is enough adjustment to allow people of all shapes to find their preferred driving position. Trimmed in Artico man-made leather and microfibre (part of the R17 900 AMG Line Interior package), the pews are comfortable and well bolstered, although they could do with a touch more thigh support. The second row is spacious, offering 728 mm of legroom and 902 mm of head-room. Those figures come rather close to the measurements of many bigger SUVs. Cargo space is acceptable but falls short when compared with rivals, offering 80 litres less boot space than the XC60 and a considerable 120 litres less utility space. Standard specification is less impressive than occupant space, with essential luxury features such as keyless operation and a reverse camera as optional extras. If you want the cabin upholstered in real hide, it will set you back at least R22 700.
Now more than ever, the GLC is a satisfying car to pilot. While not as dynamically pleasing as say, a BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz counters with a welcome heft to its steering. This gives the driver a sense they’re guiding a solid, substantial vehicle around corners without the cumbersome handling characteristics of some bigger SUVs.
The 2,0-litre turbodiesel OM654 powertrain produces 143 kW and 400 N.m of torque. Paired with a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic, the GLC is well suited to both commuting around town and cruising on motorways. With maximum torque on offer between 1 600 and 2 800 r/min, the four-cylinder has plenty of punch to move the 1 937 kg GLC about with ease. Overtaking acceleration is strong, the vehicle requiring 6,58 seconds to speed up from 80 to 120 km/h. It’s worth noting that the old, rowdier GLC250d (with 7 kW more power) was slightly slower through the gears.
Although the claimed fuel consumption figure is rated at just 5,40 L/100 km, the GLC220d managed a more realistic figure of 7,10 L/100 km on our fuel route.
The well-chosen suspension arrangement gives the GLC a firm but comfortable ride. Despite the large 20-inch alloy wheels, the coil-sprung arrangement copes with rough roads better than before, gliding over bumps that would’ve irritated the old model. Still, we feel the ride could be even better with smaller rims fitted.
A real improvement over the pre-facelift model, the GLC competes with many outstanding vehicles in this segment. It isn’t without its faults – the costly optional extras and high list price may cause potential buyers to look elsewhere – but despite these hindrances to success, the GLC is a deeply appealing midsize SUV. It offers a well-built interior and an excellent powertrain, all wrapped up in a classy package. They certainly add visual drama but we’d gloss over the pricey 20-inch AMG alloys and styling packages, rather spending money on options that enhance the relaxed character. The GLC should definitely be considered if you’re looking for a practical and luxurious midsize SUV.
ROAD TEST SCORE
See Full Mercedes-Benz GLC price and specs here